Download e-book for kindle: American Chestnut: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect by Susan Freinkel

By Susan Freinkel

The yankee chestnut used to be considered one of America's most typical, valued, and loved trees--a ''perfect tree'' that governed the forests from Georgia to Maine. yet within the early 20th century, an unique plague swept in the course of the chestnut forests with the strength of a wildfire. inside 40 years, the blight had killed as regards to 4 billion bushes and left the species teetering close to extinction. It used to be one of many worst ecological blows to North the US because the Ice Age--and one most pros thought of past fix. In American Chestnut, Susan Freinkel tells the dramatic tale of the obdurate optimists who refused to enable this cultural icon move. In a compelling weave of heritage, technology, and private statement, she relates their quest to save lots of the tree via tools that ranged from classical plant breeding to state of the art gene know-how. however the center of her tale is the forged of unconventional characters who've fought for the tree for a century, undeterred by way of setbacks or skeptics, and fueled by way of their goals of restored forests and their robust affinity for a fellow species.

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Additional info for American Chestnut: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree

Example text

Murrill was a man with many interests: he loved poetry, wrote hun- A New Scourge / 33 dreds of songs, read Greek and Latin, had a Wne singing voice, and could entertain a parlorful of guests on the piano. He was a proliWc writer, penning a number of children’s books, Wve hundred scientiWc articles, and hundreds more for popular magazines. He had been raised in a religious household and as an adult read Bible verses—in diVerent languages—to himself every night. Yet he considered science his true religion.

Chestnuts were big trees everywhere, but this land gave rise to giants—trees a dozen feet wide and ten times as tall. One Goliath in 18 / Part One Francis Cove, North Carolina, measured seventeen feet across. In spring, the trees bloomed long bushy catkins of cream-colored Xowers that Wlled the woods with a pungent perfume and made the forests look, from a distance, “like a sea with white combers plowing across its surface,” as the naturalist Donald Culross Peattie wrote. Until the early eighteenth century, few whites had ever laid eyes on the Appalachian region’s oceanic forests.

He suspected—wrongly as it turned out—that it was native to the East Coast and that it was the product of a slow and quiet mutation in the normally harmless Diaporthe. Because the disease did its dirty work under the bark, Murrill was dubious that any amount of spraying of the tree’s surface, even with as strong a brew as Bordeaux mixture, could have an eVect. Still, he tried to be hopeful, suggesting that older trees might be rescued by cutting out the aVected areas, burning the cut limbs, and dressing the wounds with creosote or tar.

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